Mar 22, 2012

Paul Levy on the Collective Shadow

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I've referenced Tibetan Buddhist and healer Paul Levy before -- notably in my review of The Secret. Levy's essays are available on his site Awaken in the Dream and in his book The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis. In his newest book Wetiko, Levy continues to explore the projected shadow as a collective phenomenon and the Native American mythical embodiment of it known as wetiko to the Cree. Years ago, I watched a movie called Wendigo, another Algonquian name for the same phenomenon. It's a haunting film that brilliantly captures the sense of doom we experience at those times when life is turned upside down leaving us at the mercy of an unfolding fate that seems to have its own agenda. As Levy explains, we actually animate this darkness run amok from our suppressed shadow. The more in denial of our shadow we are, the more inevitably we will confront it as a seemingly alien entity in our reflective world.

One of the things that struck me in this Red Ice Radio interview is Levy's anecdote about a New Age bookstore that wanted him to appear but not talk about all that shadow stuff. They wanted it to be "positive." It put me in mind of another author who dared to write about the painful side of spiritual growth; Rabbi Yonassan Gershom who wrote about Holocaust reincarnates.  Said Gershom:

Then in 1984 I was invited to speak on Jewish mysticism at the annual Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship (SFF) retreat at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. SFF is an eclectic group of spiritually oriented people who are interested in psychic phenomena, and most believe in reincarnation. Here, I thought, would be a receptive audience for these case histories that I had been gathering. So I suggested "Cases of Holocaust Reincarnation" as my topic.

I was turned down flat. The SFF representative explained that the theme of the retreat would be "I Am the Light," and they wanted to focus on uplifting, positive material because that's what people expected. The Holocaust was just too heavy and depressing, and might upset people, even if I were talking about reincarnation. Couldn't I do something more inspiring, like a Sabbath liturgy?

This relentless focus on the upbeat and cheerful is not just naive. It's dangerous -- something I've written about ad nauseam, ad infinitum. And as Levy has been explaining brilliantly for years, it can unleash terrors beyond our conscious imagining.

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